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Article originally published May 2017, updated April 2020.
The travel and hospitality market is booming, and the demand for all types of leisure activities is growing, according to recent 2017 economic reports. In fact, studies show the industry is looking far better than it has in previous years.
While these projections should give travel and hospitality companies reason to rejoice, it should also be noted that industry competition is fierce, and travel and hospitality businesses are driven by consumer demand.
While consumers in the travel and hospitality industry don’t have fixed or universal values, expectations, or preferences, there is one commonality—consumers expect a personalized experience that is tailored to meet their wants, according to the same report from Deloitte.
This presents a dilemma for digital marketers.
Travel and hospitality remains one of the most competitive industries on the planet. It’s incredibly crowded, brimming with innovation, and consumers are demanding, although not particularly loyal. With all of these challenges, however, it remains a top priority to capture consumer attention, increase revenue, and foster some level of brand loyalty.
To help you address this dilemma, we’ll present actionable ideas for how you can create compelling content that leads to a winning user experience.
Whether you are creating social media content, placing an ad, or sending out an email campaign, one thing is cert
ain: It’s in your best interest to make sure your message speaks to each of your consumers on an individual level. Why? Because personalized and highly relevant messages yield a much higher ROI. Some statistics report a 19% increase in sales generated from personalized web experiences and email campaigns that are personalized are 26% more likely to be opened. Some marketers have even gained a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.
While the value of personalization is clear, the task can seem lofty. This is especially true in the travel and hospitality industry, where your audience may range from senior citizen consumers looking for a nice vacation to 18-year-old spring breakers looking for the cheapest hotel where they can fit as many of their friends in one room as possible—and everyone in between.
With small marketing teams and even smaller IT departments, personalized content may seem like an impossible task. However, with the right tools, personalization is accessible to all marketers. Consider the following ideas to help you personalize your messaging to go above and beyond just including your customer’s name in an email.
Today’s savvy consumers have come to expect and demand personalized experiences from brands. The question is: how will you deliver on that expectation?
You can use tools that enable you to collect and aggregate data about customers and their preferences including things like gender, geolocation, website behavior, engagement with your brand, etc. and then use that data to send incredibly targeted, personal, and relevant follow-up offers, tips, and opportunities to customers.
For example, if you have a customer who has booked a cruise, you can use that information to send them timely upsell opportunities for excursions, coupons for restaurants and hotels near their ports of call, and VIP membership offers for multiple bookings. Additionally, if the data shows they love cruising and have booked several cruises, use that information to send notifications about upcoming cruises that the data indicates they would enjoy.
When a customer checks out of your hotel, you can immediately send them an email thanking them for their stay and providing them an offer of a percentage off on their next stay or invite them to check out one of your other properties, based on the activities they engaged in during their stay.
Additionally, you can use information about past interactions and purchases and retarget your audience on different advertising platforms. Statistics show that remarketing works well for the travel and hospitality industry. When you keep your brand in front of customers on different marketing platforms, it can result in future bookings with your company.
Another way to create a highly personalized customer experience is to create compelling and relevant content and experiences that stay with the customer through their whole journey. 86% of marketing executives agree that creating a cohesive customer journey is an important marketing approach for landing sales.
For example, if data shows you that a customer is searching for a beach house in California, send them a visually compelling video of your property there, followed by a discount for that booking, followed by recommendations on nearby things to do, places to eat, and so forth. Do you know they have kids? Recommendations for kid-friendly activities or restaurants are priceless to parents, or if you know they are singles, recommend the coolest and hippest places they won’t want to miss. The more you cater to their preferences, the more likely they are to purchase from you.
Marriott takes a very innovative approach to creating a personalized client experience. The chain recently created virtual reality pods. With Oculus Rift headsets or smartphones, customers can virtually step right into other Marriott properties, experience the views, and make a reservation on the spot.
You may not have the funding or technology for a VR experience quite yet, but you can use the data you have or make a concerted effort to collect data about your customers, and then use it to craft super relevant and personalized messages that will resonate best with them.
We touched briefly on the importance of having quality data about your customers to personalize your messages, but, since data is such a large part of successful digital marketing, it’s important to delve a little deeper.
40% of brands are now planning to expand their data-based marketing budgets. 88% of marketers surveyed use data from third parties to improve their knowledge about clients. In today’s world, using data correctly can mean the difference between driving significant growth and revenue or risk becoming obsolete.
One reason travel and hospitality agencies may underutilize data is that it requires time to understand and can be difficult to access for many marketers.
When it comes to data capture and integrations, there’s a multitude of tools with varying degrees of complexity and cost. Any digital marketer may struggle to find the best fit. Since travel and hospitality companies are engaging with people through so many different channels, it’s likely you may use more than one tool or third-party app or integration that includes data and analytics and works with the other tools you use, like your CRM, your email service provider, your reservations portal, your website, and more. When determining what the best fit is for your team, things to look for might include:
The data you gain can instantly inform you about what a customer prefers, help automate processes, and enable you to make more strategic marketing decisions.
An incredibly aspirational example is Disney with their MyMagic+ technology. With MyMagic+ technology, guests can enjoy a personalized experience by securing FastPasses/booking ride times, making restaurant reservations, purchasing park-related merchandise, getting instant access to photos, opening their hotel room, and more. Not only does this technology provide guests with a convenient and highly-personalized experience, but it also stores data about each customer, so Disney can further improve their experience.
Utilizing software and technology to collect data goes a long way in the travel and tourism industry regarding creating the right marketing content, personalizing the experiences of customers, and improving marketing operations.
Managing communications and customer engagement across multiple channels is undoubtedly tough. However, maintaining a consistent tone and engagement experience across all your digital marketing avenues and company communications is vital to increasing customer loyalty.
In fact, 60% of US millennials expect to have consistent experiences when engaging with a brand in the store, on the phone, or online. Additionally, 80% of consumers report that “authenticity of content” is the most influential factor in whether or not they will follow a brand.
Your content is a direct reflection of your brand—make sure it’s consistent and authentic by following these tips.
Imagine if you walked into a McDonald’s in another state and you didn’t see any golden arches, cups weren’t branded, there was no such thing as a “kid’s meal,” and their main burger was called a “Giant Mac.” This would probably be a confusing experience.
Companies, large and small, secure customers by creating specific guidelines that help keep their brand consistent, recognizable, and, ultimately, trustworthy. With a large food chain like McDonald’s, they maintain consistency with everything from their copywriting to the temperature of their Diet Coke and everything in between. Take note from the fast-food giant and take control of all the aspects of your brand to deliver the consistent and stellar experiences consumers desire and expect.
One way you can ensure your brand stays consistent is to create a style guide. A style guide acts as a resource for everyone involved in marketing communications. A good style guide should include the following elements:
Your style guide should act as the branding guidelines for everyone on your team. As such, it’s vital to circulate the guide to make sure your executive, sales, marketing, product, customer service, and partner teams have a copy.
A style guide lays out all the specs for branding, but what happens when not everyone on your team is a copywriter and designer? There still has to be a way to ensure your brand stays consistent.
You can accomplish this by using templates. For example, let’s say your firm sees a high return from email marketing, and you need to bring more people on board to get your message out. By using a platform like Campaign Monitor, you can customize your templates and lockdown sections so your team can change the content, but not risk breaking the design or other critical elements. That way, you can rest assured your communications are the same across the board.
As a travel and hospitality brand, there is no doubt you are delivering a variety of content formats. This is a great way to engage your customers; just make sure, when you are using a mixture of landing pages, videos, infographics, emails, ebooks, blogs, signs, and more, that you follow the steps outlined above to ensure brand consistency. It will solidify your brand identity and customer experiences.
Did you know you can increase office efficiency by 20% just by automating your processes? This means, if you invest in software that helps you run reports, send out emails, manage content, track campaign data, and more, you can add an extra work day to each of your employee’s schedules each week.
With all of the inexpensive tools on the market to help you with campaign monitoring, email marketing, reporting, and more, automation is a no-brainer. If you’re not automating your marketing processes, the time to start is now.
When it comes to creating content that goes above and beyond, automation is yet another tactic that will help you hit the mark. Here are just a few ideas on how you can use automation to create killer content.
Virgin Experience Days is a great example of using automation to drive sales. They use Campaign Monitor to set up event-driven automation. For example, every time a customer purchases an experience, they automatically receive a discount code for their next purchase.
This encourages repeat purchases. As a result of their automation efforts, Virgin has seen a 29% increase in open rates, 120% email marketing growth, and they receive 20,000 new subscribers each month.
Another way you can create awesome content is by automatically delivering relevant messaging and recommendations based on customer location.
For example, Flight Centre uses dynamic content to customize promotions based on location. In the email below, you’ll notice a message to travelers followed by several blocks of content. What’s so cool is the marketing team at Flight Centre has created one email template, and then they use automation and dynamic content so that only the main message and the content that is relevant to particular subscribers appears. This means the email’s content is different for each individual based on their location and preferences but they only have to create one email, saving hours and hours of time and energy and making their team vastly more efficient.
Customer journeys are a series of emails that are sent out automatically based on selected triggers. In this case, a date or time.
Westgate Hotel uses customer journeys to maintain a sense of urgency and maybe a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) for enthusiastic customers by informing them the minute ski villas become available for the season. By targeting customers with a time-sensitive “book now or you might miss out” style offering, Westgate increases their chances of conversion.
By selecting a specific date to send out an automatic email notification of new opportunities to book limited reservations, Westgate makes sure they notify customers that are waiting. This way, they don’t lose out on business. Additionally, with an automated customer journey, they could schedule automatic follow-up reminders.
Customer journeys are the epitome of “set it and forget it,” and are a great way to make sure you don’t ever lose out on customers by sending the right content to the right person at the right time.
Another way you can automate your campaigns is with behavior or event-based customer journeys. This is where you send communications based on specific actions of a consumer. For example, let’s say your customer visited your website and searched for a specific hotel or airline booking, but didn’t purchase.
A customer journey recognizes this action and triggers a specific set of follow-up emails. For example, if a customer went to Airbnb looking for deals in Sonoma but didn’t purchase, Airbnb could set a trigger for an automated customer journey and send a series of emails with promotions, offers, and travel suggestions for Sonoma.
This type customer journey helps guide customers and motivates them to purchase from your company.
It’s hard to talk about data capture, consistency, and automation without talking about the benefits of segmentation. In the case of your email marketing and lists, segmentation is the process of categorizing your email lists based on different subscriber preferences, locations, demographics, engagement, and more, and can help you knock it out of the park when it comes to creating personal and winning customer experiences.
An email marketing and automation provider like Campaign Monitor will enable you to quickly and easily create powerful segments that you can apply to a large number of different campaigns and customer journeys.
You can segment lists based on the following:
Once you have defined your rules, all you have to do is save the information, and you have officially created a segment.
Once you’ve defined rules for your lists, you can use them to target specific groups. With data, segmentation, and automation, you can create different emails and then send them to the right audience at exactly the right time. It’s the secret that so many successful travel and hospitality marketers swear by.
For example, the Drake Hotel Properties segments their lists based on several subscriber preferences including job title/corporation type. One of their lists caters specifically to corporations that are looking for cool event spaces just like The Drake. They use this list to promote specifically to one of their target audiences.
By segmenting their lists, they can cater to the needs of their primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences on an individual basis. And they’ve seen results from segmenting lists and automating their campaigns. Over two years, The Drake has seen a 61% increase in subscribers, received 100+ brunch reservations from just one email campaign, and experienced a 19% increase in General Store purchases directly from email marketing automation efforts.
The best emails are the most helpful ones. With segmentation, you can send a variety of personal offers, ideas, opportunities, and follow-ups right to the subscriber you are targeting. This means those subscribers interested in eating at your restaurant in Chicago get emails related to your restaurant in Chicago, and not your restaurants in Nashville and Orlando. The effort you make to segment your lists will pay off in increasing your bookings and building customer loyalty.
Email marketing has maintained the number one spot of delivering highest ROI among all marketing channels for the last ten years. Just to give you an idea of how significant this is, reports show that, for every $1 spent on email marketing, it generates $44 in ROI or a 4400% return. What may be even more interesting to digital marketers in the travel and hospitality industry is the travel and hospitality industry is reported to receive a 56.7% email open rate, which is the highest amongst 17 other industries.
Email marketing and automation are extremely effective in the digital marketing department for the travel and hospitality industry.
Since the importance of data, personalization, segmentation, and automation has been addressed, the following section will focus on the types of email campaigns you can use to best engage and exceed expectations.
When someone subscribes to your list, use it to your advantage to offer them a warm welcome. You can also use a simple call to action for maximum impact, like Asana does below.
The actionable advice you can draw from this example is that welcome emails should be accompanied by guides. When your subscriber has just signed up, provide them with steps on what to do next. They may not be sure what to do unless you nudge them in the right direction.
Consumers in the travel and hospitality industry are always looking for a deal. Oblige them by sending them promotions that cater to their preferences.
Once a customer creates a booking or makes a purchase, immediately send them a confirmation email with all the details. Confirmation or transactional emails get some of the highest open rates of any emails sent. In this example, Flight Centre sends a confirmation email and then sends a special promotional offer towards a customer’s next booking.
A thank you goes a long way towards building customer loyalty. Make it a priority to offer a thank you gift to those who book with your firm. This will not only be appreciated but can also lead to future bookings.
Part of producing an awesome customer experience is sending reminders before arrival and throughout the journey. Make it your motto for your customers not to have to do anything but book with you, and then send them reminder emails along the way.
Do you have an exclusive customer base, a VIP club, or a loyalty program? Send out emails that are exclusive to these buyers, like event invitations to exclusive parties or special perks.
Is there anything better than winning something from a brand you love? Encourage engagement with a little healthy competition.
Sending these types of high-quality and relevant emails will help you grow your subscriber list and your business.
The best way to produce great email content is to base your customer experience strategy around the customer. What types of emails are they looking to see? How could your organization solve a pain point of theirs? These questions are much easier to answer with specific goals and benchmarks in place.
A customer experience strategy should be holistic in nature. This means it starts with one question: How can the company help the customer through the email platform? Once this question is answered, the next step is to figure out how to get there.
The beginning point for creating this strategy would involve segmentation. For a particular strategy, a particular demographic of customer would be targeted, in most cases. Major email marketers rarely have the resources to focus on individual readers, so segments of similar readers is the best option.
The next step is to consider the goal of the strategy. What specific metrics do you hope to improve? A campaign could be used for any number of options, including: higher open rates, better engagement, more sales, or simply steady growth of an active subscriber base.
Setting goals isn’t just about giving your campaign direction; It’s about giving it a target. A strategy is good, but a definitive goal gives it a new layer of purpose.
If the tools you’re using to gather data insights about your subscribers provide specific metrics, you can use any of those figures. For example, if your goal for an email strategy is to get customers to browse an online store, tracking how long they viewed the page (and who got there from the email) would be valuable metrics.
If the goal is to increase sales for a particular product or product line, the number of users who browsed those pages or completed purchases would be the target metrics.
Good email strategies deliver in all areas—traffic, leads, subscribers, and sales. Targeted strategies with trackable metrics can be even more successful, bringing big gains to individual areas, if managed properly.
Some figures show customer experience won’t just be a metric in the near future, but it will be the metric. In 2019, surveys have shown customer experience is the most exciting new business opportunity.
Personalization is the key to mastering the client experience. Companies can’t please everyone, and this is where knowing segments of the audience comes in handy. It allows marketing strategies to be more focused and results to be more quantifiable.
The use of segmentation and customer insights provide both the basis and framework for a successful strategy. Each company or marketing manager will plug in their specific goals and insights in, meaning one strategy could look vastly different from the next.
Rather than aiming for one perfect strategy that will bring up all metrics throughout your entire subscriber base, get specific. Focus on segments, and focus on bringing up specific metrics within those segments.
Particularly in the travel and hospitality industries, customers want to be taken care of. They have their own goals and needs and, when an email strategy addresses those, it’s bound to be a success.
The travel and hospitality industry is brimming with competition. However, with the right strategy and the right tools, you can be massively successful.
By personalizing your content, efficiently using data, making your branding cohesive, segmenting and sending relevant automated customer journeys, you’ll be able to stand out from the masses and provide amazing customer experiences to your target audience.
How can you build a successful customer experience strategy, even across channels? Try these tips to build a strategy users will appreciate.
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